Week 4 – Learn to Draw

Total Time: 4-5 hours, or a lifetime
Total Cost: 37.29 online, though potentially cheaper at a local art store.

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Drawing is something I’ve been truly terrible at my entire life. I’ve always had a desire to be good at drawing but I’ve never taken the time to learn it before. Though I’ve certainly sat down and tried to draw something at one point or another, I’ve never approached drawing from the perspective that it was a skill I wanted to improve at.

The good news is that its never too late to learn a new skill and that drawing should be more fun to learn than the other new skills I’ve picked up this month. The bad news is that there’s no way you’re going to “master” something as broad and nuanced as drawing is in just 5 hours.

After a lifetime of not drawing, 5 hours of practice and online tutorials was nowhere near enough to turn me into a good artist. That said, this week was far from a failure. The amount of improvement I was able to do was more than worth the investment of time and money I made, and I may have picked up a new hobby along the way as well. I blew right through the 5 hours in the blink of an eye, and truth be told I’m probably right around the 20 hour mark as of writing these words. I find drawing to be a ton of fun, partially because its one of those skills that gives you very instant feedback as to how your progressing – something I really appreciate in a hobby. You’re also making something as you do it, which feels much more productive than sitting around and watching TV (which is actually something you can do while drawing).

If you’re in the market for a cheap, satisfying, productive, highly mobile new hobby and you’ve never tried drawing before I highly recommend you try it out.

First off – If you’ve come here because you’ve never drawn before and you want to impress your friends with your amazing new drawing skills that you picked up in 5 hours or less, your best bet is to learn how to draw one or two very specific things. I’m sure you can find a tutorial somewhere on youtube for how to draw something cartoony, such as a bear on a unicycle or one of your favorite cartoon characters. Practice drawing that one thing over and over again until you’ve got it down, it’ll probably be easier than you think. Learning how to draw something specific really isn’t very challenging, and you don’t need to be a great artist to replicate something that someone else designed.

If you’re interested in picking up a much broader, “be able to draw anything you see” skill like I was, this is obviously going to take a much longer commitment of time and effort, especially if you’re coming from a place like I was where you have literally, not figuratively but “literally literally” never studied drawing at all.

If someone approached me and asked me to teach them how to play the guitar, the first thing I’d do is make sure they knew how to correctly put their fingers down on the frets. I wouldn’t hand them my guitar and say “let’s play a song!”. It’s the exact same with drawing, except you can replace “song” with “drawing anything in three dimensions”.

I wanted to start off with the very basics – stuff like how to hold a pen or how to draw a straight line. You want to build good habits from the start while they’re easy to change. After some poking around to find a solid tutorial website I stumbled on “draw a box“, a site I’d highly recommend for people who have no drawing experience whatsoever. I spent nearly all 5 of the 5 and 50 hours going through the first two lessons from this site. The first two lessons teach the very basics, things like how to draw a straight line, draw ellipses, how to move the pen by using your shoulder, perspective, etc. The lessons provide you with very specific exercises to follow and have fairly detailed instructions and examples to go along with them.

I tried to blow through these first few lessons a little quicker than I ought to of, probably because I still held onto a slim hope that I could learn how to accurately draw things like people, animals, and household objects in my 5 hour window. I would highly recommend that you take your time, especially during your first two lessons, because these really lay down the ground work for everything you’ll be drawing in the future. When you eventually start to draw something like a face, the first mark you make on the page is an ellipse, not a nose or an eye, so you really wanna make sure you master these basic skills.

Once my 5 hours were up I decided to stop following the lessons and benchmark my progress. The first I noticed was that my drawings started to look measurably better once I actually knew how to draw a straight line and a proper curve, so right away I felt as though these first two lessons on draw a box were worth my time. At this point I got really excited and went out the next day to buy a set of pencils, a couple erasers, a ruler, and an x-acto knife to sharpen everything, mostly because it seemed cooler than a regular pencil sharpener.

I’ve spent the last couple of days drawing only in pencil. Pencils are obviously much more forgiving of mistakes, and they allow you to use more guiding lines to balance out your perspective and proportions correctly which is super helpful for beginners. Its also pretty fun to use your finger to smudge stuff around, and its much easier to convey depth and shadow with a pencil by varying up how hard you press down on the page and what kind of graphite you use.

For the first two lessons on draw a box I’d highly recommend you use pens. The guy who created these lessons says that its really important to build confidence in the lines and curves you draw, and its easy to see why. Even with an eraser you can never fully get rid of some of the lines you put down on a page, and pens encourage you to not do the classic novice technique of using tons of tiny lines close together to create a straight line or a complex curve. Your drawings will look much more professional if you’re confident in your strokes and stay away from the tiny lines technique.

That should be all you need to get started at what might turn out to be your new favorite hobby!

I hope you guys enjoyed “New Skills Month”, the very first month of my year-long 5 and 50 challenge. I’ve had a great time so far making these blog posts and videos, and of course learning these four new skills. Now its time to kick off the 5 and 50 training wheels. I tried to pick easier, more approachable topics for the first month so I could get a good feel for the format and spend extra time on learning how to edit videos. Next month is challenge month, where I’ll really start step outside the box and push the boundaries for the 5 and 50 format. See you all then!

Cheers,

Aleco

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